With more CGI and prosthetics than you could shake a silver-tipped stick at, Grimmfest’s 2022 Monsters and Movies festival was a roaring success!

Manchester’s Odeon Cinema became the focus of the two-day event which saw eight film screenings (including two premieres), accompanied by panel talks on the films and film industry, and a signing event with horror greats like Neil Marshall, Alice Krige and Reece Shearsmith.

Kicking off the weekend was the UK premiere of Wolf Manor, Dominic Brunt’s latest comedy horror which walks in the footsteps of every werewolf film ever made. The self-referential movie managed to be violent and surprising while having plenty of fun asides for fans of the genre, particularly American Werewolf in London.

Dominic Brunt lead the panel talk on Wolf Manor along with special effects artists Paula Anne Booker and Shaune Harrison, plus Ashley Thorpe, an animator involved in the film and best known for his work on the Netflix film Borley Rectory.

Next up was 2015’s The Hallow, an English/Irish folktale horror by Corin Hardy, who even brought along props from the making of – twisted fairytale latex monsters galore! The British portion of the day then fell to the side as we watched the 30th-anniversary edition of Sleepwalkers, Alice Krige’s disturbingly incestuous sort-of-werewolf flick from 1992. 

And then, the film most of us had been waiting for: John Carpenter’s The Thing, in spectacular 4K remastered edition. Reece Shearsmith had, earlier in the day, lamented that people didn’t go to see new stories, just went to see the classics over and over again as was the case with this sold-out screening. Still, having chosen the film himself as his favourite monster movie, he had to concede that this was a really exciting moment.

The pre-screening chat with erudite horror expert Mick Garris was fascinating as he and Reece Shearsmith discussed the special effects, gave us background stories about the making of the film, and even touched on the nature of horror movie fans and their relationship to monsters.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about watching this high-definition version of the iconic movie was seeing extra details in the background of each shot – things like alien-themed video games and board games with names like Stay Alive and Number’s Up. There’s even a wartime poster warning about STIs with the slogan “They Aren’t Labelled, Chum” right behind MacReady in the petri dish scene.

The next day started strong with American Werewolf In London, which nearly sold as well as The Thing. As we’d discovered the day before with Wolf Manor, comedy horror werewolf movies are a great way to start a day of horror binging! 

The talk afterward hosted by Ramsey Campbell with Neil Marshall, Mick Garris, Corin Hardy, and Reece Shearsmith was filled with overwhelming love for this film, but also incredible analysis. Major points of discussion include the melding of comedy and horror, favourite special effects moments, and the American Jewish subtext of the main character’s nightmares.

The next film up was Charlotte Colbert’s She Will (2021). The showing was preceded by a panel talk with Colbert, lead actor Alice Krige, and Dr. Linnie Blake of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies – they discussed representations of witchcraft, aging women, and themes of vengeance. The award-winning slow-burn horror was incredibly powerful, an absolutely dazzling feat – no wonder we gave it 5 stars in our review!

The Descent came next, almost a relief from the intense psychological matter of She Will, or at least right up until the claustrophobia sets in. Monsters play a slightly smaller role in this film than many of the others, not appearing until the second half, but the setup is perfectly executed. 

Hearing Neil Marshall discuss the film afterward was also a pleasure, and as we were having a mostly werewolf-themed weekend, he touched on his other big hit, Dog Soldiers. He then introduced the final film of the weekend: the premier of his own The Lair, which he described as more akin to Dog Soldiers than The Descent.

All in all, what a weekend! Horror heroes and gore groupies gathered to share stories and tips on how to make the best fake blood and debate over the gnarliest parts of a werewolf transformation. Grimmfest pulls it out of the bag again!

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